Côr Gobaith sing out: ‘Stop arming Israel!’

IssueAugust - September 2017
News by Patricia Richards

Aberystwyth’s Côr Gobaith made their presence felt at the annual Street Choirs Festival in Kendal at the end of June. One of three Welsh choirs, alongside Pales Peace Choir and Wrexham Community Choir, we took our messages of nonviolence, justice and environmental sustainability out onto the streets with our peace flags, pride flags and red dragons flying!

The festival has a long history of putting music into protest and for us, especially in these difficult times, the overarching aim is to promote a world free of oppression, exploitation, exclusion and violence.

Our set at the festival’s concert embodied this emancipatory aim. We sang songs for ‘the disappeared’ in Chile and Mexico, for the water protectors of Standing Rock, and we ended with the defiant Welsh anthem Yma O Hyd (We’re Still Here) for all the peoples of the world whose lands and cultures are under threat from empire-building states and corporations.

The festival was also an opportunity to network with other choirs, singing together and planning actions. In addition, for those of us lucky enough to participate, a highlight was singing inside Cathedral Cavern above Elterwater with around a hundred people - a spine-tingling, moving moment. At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, joining hands for the final song, ‘We hold you in our circle, we hold you in our love’, was truly unforgettable.

Shaming the banks

Barely back in Aberystwyth, Côr Gobaith supported the Stop Arming Israel Week of Action organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

This action was timed to coincide with the third anniversary of attacks on the Gaza Strip, 100 years of British complicity in the oppression of Palestinians, and 50 years since the military occupation of the West Bank. PSC’s campaign emphasised that: ‘UK-based banks, like HSBC, hold shares in and provide loans to military and technology companies that sell weapons and equipment to Israel.’ HSBC’s complicity in Israel’s militarised oppression includes shares in Elbit, one of Israel’s largest military companies, which markets its weapons as ‘field-tested’ on Palestinian bodies and land.

Justifiably angered by this, Côr Gobaith sang outside HSBC in Aberystwyth to bring these immoral investments to the attention of its customers. Joining with local Friends of Palestine activists, including indefatigable organiser Elizabeth Morley, we also signed letters of protest and talked with some of the customers using the bank.

We were very positively received and managed to change the minds of at least two potential customers who chose to open their accounts elsewhere. ‘Step by step the longest march can be won’ runs one of our songs. Palestinian civil society has called for a comprehensive military embargo of Israel and now is the time to heed their call for effective solidarity.

This was aptly illustrated by the rousing ‘Boycott Song’, borrowed from London’s Strawberry Thieves choir. Sung to the tune of the Everly Brothers’ ‘Bye Bye Love’, the song usefully contains the information that the barcode for goods from Israel begins with the numbers 729.

Take note and act!

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